A Moholy, l’ultimo giorno del tram a tariffa ridotta

(1998) electroacoustic music for a silent movie by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy [5’ 19”]

Premiered at Accademia Musicale Pescarese, Pescara, 1998

«Our century’s reality is technology… machines have taken up the room of the past transcendental spiritualism. All of us are equal facing machines… Within the technology nor tradition nor class consciousness: we all could be masters, but also slaves.»

Moholy-Nagy, 1922

The “Lichtrequisit”, which is shot in the film, is a half sculpture/half machine made of chromium-plated metal, glass, wire and metallic bars. Moholy-Nagy always tried to interpret space within its relationship with time. Therefore all the sculpture movements – most of them slow and circular – are realized with the consciousness that the screen is nothing but flat, like a picture or a painting. Sometimes Moholy-Nagy realizes “virtual” movements through image processing techniques: negative and positive images superimposed, different shapes lightings, dazzling lightings which project shadows of sculpture parts on a white background.

My music idea was to give sound to the silent sculpture. So this is the reason why:

  • sound materials are determined by sculpture materials: metal (a scratched and beated metal plate, a synthetic “saw”, a washing-machine drum), glass (scraping with broken glasses);
  • sound transformations derive from Moholy-Nagy lighting technique: filtering with parameters values often taken from film frames spectra;
  • I have tried to render bi-dimensional the three-dimensionality of the acoustic space. Most of the circular movements are evoked by the material – formal, timbral – character, rather than by actual sound moving.

The entirety of Moholy-Nagy experimentation led him to plan a synchronization of the “Lichtrequisit” movements with a musical score. We could imagine the rules he would have used to guide his action remembering what he said to a friend while drawing his face contours: «I can play your profile. I am curious to know how your nose will sound.» One of his experiments was to engrave alphabetical signs directly on the soundtrack. This is why on the written words images (“schwarz”, “weiss”, “grau”) appearing at the beginning of the film – like a personal “manifesto” by Moholy-Nagy – I superimposed white noise filtered with parameters (central frequency, frequency bandwidth) which follow the contours of each single letter.